Monica Salvi is touring her re-vamped production of Mad Women in my Attic! This included two intimate nights at London’s premier Cabaret Venue Crazy Coqs, part of Bar Zedel. I was fortunate enough to attend her second date.
The show is a musical production exploring the female malady addressing mad women in all their glory. The piece illustrates that madness isn’t just typecast to one form. Salvi instead presents a musical of madness and lunacy through the vehicle of modern-day musical theatre and it is fabulous, funny, clever, sad, tear-inspiring, and damn right bonkers!
Although mental health and ‘madness’ are much spoken of in 2022, there are very few women who have created a show that celebrates our differences, questions what madness really is, and at the same time condemns the treatment of women by the patriarchy for not fitting in. This show does and for this reason, Salvi’s production must be applauded and more work like this needs to be seen.
The show is great fun; however, I am not sure that the Crazy Coqs is big enough for this show, the stage was cramped due to the grand piano and Salvi requires a lot of costume changes, and space to be herself on stage. Unfortunately, her Follow Spot technician was also out of sync a lot of the time. Saying this, do not let this put you off, Monica just needs a bigger stage!
With a nod to both Bronte’s Mrs Rochester (Jane Eyre) and the mandatory ‘treatment’ of mad women in the late 19th and early 20th century in the show’s title. Salvi gives her audience, her fellow inmates, a deep dive into the headspace (attic) of a musical theatre performer who has been typecasted throughout her whole career as the mad woman instead of the aspirational leading lady!
In all of the productions she has performed in Salvi plays the undesirable woman, the woman scorned, the mad woman. This has to do something to your ego surely! The show is built on this premise and by revisiting these characters, for us, on stage Salvi is able to showcase her lexicon of madness!
The show comprises 16 songs; these range from well-known musicals such as Sunset Boulevard and Kiss of the Spider Woman, to very technical songs from Kurt Weill/Bertolt Brecht which confirm that Salvi is a master of her artistry. To more niche and lesser-known productions including Femme Fatale, Jane Eyre the Musical and the work of Katie Lee and The Therapy Sisters. (My personal favourite from the show was ‘I need a Stalker’ by the aforementioned group.
The 75-minute show has multiple costume changes and Salvi boasts a high-octane delivery at all times. She talks directly to the audience, there is definitely no fourth wall – we are all in the asylum with her. In one section of the show, Salvi invites audience members up to the stage with her to join in a song ‘The Ballad for Group Therapy’. There is other audience participation, but I won’t spoil it for you, but I can imagine this could go very very wrong, or in the case of the show I witnessed, be absolutely fantastic, very funny and a great addition to the show.
The piece begins with Salvi appearing from behind the venue’s bar, where she welcomes her fellow patients, the audience, and all our personalities to her show, she also introduces us to her psychothera-pianist Michael Ferreri. The piece ends with a sing-along to The Get Well March, the audience is invited to sing along and “Get Set, Get Well, Rebel!” is a perfect ending to a well-needed, educational, inspirational damn right brilliant piece of theatre.
Review by Faye Stockley
After critically acclaimed runs at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the Brighton Fringe, the Prague Fringe, the United Solo Theatre Festival in New York – where it won a Best Cabaret Award – and a sold-out performance at The Other Palace Theatre, Miss Salvi brought her Madwoman stories and songs to the befitting stage of Crazy Coqs.
Directed by Clare McKenna.
11th October 2022